I’ve been complaining – well, we all have – that there’s going to be so little time to debate the Spending Review in Parliament. We’ve just been given next Thursday afternoon, which will be five-and-a-half hours at most. Ridiculous, as Hilary Benn complained at Business Questions today.
Anyway, I’ve just discovered, flicking through the Order Paper looking at Future Business – and obviously I’m just saying this so you think I’m still in the office whereas I’m actually quaffing mocktails at a very plush bar in Soho with someone who bears a very close resemblance to Evan Dando during that brief period when he had short hair – that the Backbench Business Committee has used one of its allocated days for a Westminster Hall debate on The impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on the Department for Work and Pensions, on 4th November.
This is a new innovation (Can an innovation be new? Well, of course it can, but can it be described as new? Probably not)… what I mean is, we’ve not had backbench business debates in Westminster Hall before. We’ve only had a few in the main Chamber, as the Backbench Business Committee was only set up a few months ago. So I don’t know if this will be a whole day’s debate or, as is more usual for Westminster Hall, a few hours. But still, it’s good that it’s happening.
Nick Raynsford also has a 90 minute debate in Westminster Hall next Wednesday on The impact of Government policies and the Comprehensive Spending Review on housing investment and supply. Alison Seabeck – an excellent appointment by Ed Miliband as Shadow Housing Minister – will get to bat for Labour. She also happens to be Mrs Raynsford, or rather, he’s Mr Seabeck. Except they’re not married. Anyway, it’s quite sweet they’re doing a debate together. Moving swiftly on….
There’s also going to be a Backbench Business debate in Westminster Hall on the 28th October, on Privacy and the Internet. That should be interesting… Unfortunately it clashes with (a) the final session of the Finance Bill committee (which won’t be) and (b) the debate in the Chamber on the Spending Review, which I will definitely be at if we can get the Finance Bill stuff over and done with in time.
And I’ve just had an email through from Robert Halfon, the MP who called for the debate, as follows:
Please forgive the impersonal nature of this email. The Backbench Business Committee has agreed to hold a debate on Thursday 28 October on civil liberties, privacy and the Internet. It begins at 2.30pm in Westminster Hall and the debate has been allocated 3 hours.
Many constituents have written to me with concerns about this, and have raised the following issues:
1. In recent months, employees of Google and other Internet companies have illegally hacked into private email accounts, published photos of naked children on Street View, and mapped private Wi-Fi addresses with no consent.
2. The Metropolitan Police have opened an investigation into some of these issues, but the Information Commissioner has not yet taken strong action.
3. Many other democratic countries, including notably Canada, are now taking legal action to defend the individual right to privacy and civil liberties in their country.
I believe that this debate is an opportunity to make the case for modern privacy laws, which account for the Internet and new technology. Above all, citizens need a right of redress, and protection against a privatized surveillance society.”
*Not a song title. Obviously. It’s late, I want to go home.